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Helping Children Find & Use Their Abilities

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Banjo Lesson by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Perspective and Interpretation from The Urantia Book on Guiding Children to Find and Use Their Abilities

It would appear that one of our main responsibilities as adults — teachers, parents and friends of children — is to help guide, stimulate, and challenge them to find and actualize their "God-given" abilities. Actually, The Urantia Book teaches that "God-given" is not an accurate term, as God does not arbitrarily give the gift of special ability. So what does the book say are the sources of "special human ability"?

"There are three possible sources of special human ability. At the bottom always there exists the natural or inherent aptitude. Special ability is never an arbitrary gift of the Gods; there is always an ancestral foundation for every outstanding talent." (The Urantia Book, 44:8.2) The Urantia Book makes a distinction between 'ability' and 'skill': From the dictionary ability is: "the power to do something; skill, expertise, talent, capacity or tendency." From The Urantia Book : "Ability is that which you inherit, while skill is what you acquire.....Skill is one of the real sources of the satisfaction of living. Ability implies the gift of foresight, farseeing vision." (The Urantia Book, 160:4.11)

Leadership as an ability is mentioned many times by the authors of The Urantia Book, they seem to be concerned about the quality of human leadership. "Leadership is dependent on natural ability, discretion, will power, and determination." (The Urantia Book, 156:5.7)

I have heard perceptive teachers express concern about the current trend of giving drugs to some of our more active children, the vast majority of which are boys, so that they will be able to sit longer in the classroom. Research has shown that children who seem to have leadership abilities often have a difficult time waiting, sitting, and listening to others. They have a drive to be FIRST in line trying to get ahead of the other children. Some children may have to take drugs to help them attend and control themselves, but adults should make every effort to be sure we are also helping them to use their energy in positive ways instead of suppressing it.

This is just my personal opinion, but I suggest we should continue to explore the research before we give children drugs to quell what might be their natural leadership abilities.

How can we identify the abilities which our children may inherit? Perhaps it will be helpful to look at a method which is being recognized within some of the more advanced educational systems — researcher Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences.

Gardner has now identified nine intelligences, i.e. abilities, and styles of learning. Many of us have most of them, but there are usually one or two that are dominant. And some children show outstanding "special ability" in certain of these. A study of this list of nine intelligences and abilities may help you discover personal strengths and abilities for yourself and your children.

Of course Gardner's work provides just one model, but it's one that is being recognized by some forward looking schools across the United States. If you find your child has a special ability you may want to further this by providing environments that are conducive to discovering more about his or her abilities or specific training. For instance, if you find your child learns best by the kinesthetic intelligence — has an ability to learn by doing — and loves to make people laugh through drama, you may consider providing a special trunk full of props such as hats, wands, swords, wigs, pieces of material, etc., allowing for more creative expression of this ability.

You may find that your child seems to be obsessive about a specific intelligence, such as reading 10 books a week, you may want to provide alternative experiences which will help create balance and develop other intelligences such as walks in nature, art, music, or sports.

Following is Howard Gardner's list of nine multiple intelligences:

1) Linguistic and Verbal:

Strength in the language arts such as talking, listening, writing and reading. Children who are expert with words can often not only be quite successful in school, but they can manipulate their parents with skillful verbal negotiations. Poets and playwrights, TV and radio personalities all show high ability in this intelligence. Children high in this intelligence/ability learn easily from books, enjoy jokes, puns, riddles, and tongue twisters, live with their nose in a book and might enjoy word games.

2) Logical and Mathematical:

The ability with numbers, problem solving, and logical reasoning such as required in the sciences. Children who have this ability as a strength might like to collect and sort things, can figure out many math problems in their heads, are good at estimating mathematical answers and want to know why they need to do something. They enjoy analyzing situations and are born questioners. Logical answers appeal to them and they might want to have pros and cons listed when they are asked to do something by their parents or teachers.

3) Spatial and Visual:

The ability to form a mental model of a spatial world and to be able to maneuver and operate using that model. Sailors, engineers, surgeons, sculptors, and painters have highly developed spatial intelligence. Children with this ability as a strength will like to create pictures and sculptures,draw, paint, doodle and usually have a good imagination.

4) Musical intelligence:

The ability to enjoy and learn well through songs, patterns, rhythms, instruments and musical expression. They may enjoy humming and tapping their feet. Remembering songs and words to songs may come easily to them. They may like to make up their own songs. Leonard Bernstein had lots of this intelligence; Mozart presumably, had even more.

5) Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence:

The ability to solve problems or to make things using one's whole body, or parts of the body. Learning occurs best through activity such as games, movement, hands-on tasks and building. Sitting still is very difficult. Some of these people might be called "overly active" in situations where much sitting is required. Some of the best thinking is often done while doing something physical. Dancers, athletes, surgeons, craftspeople all exhibit highly developed bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

6) Interpersonal intelligence:

The ability to understand other people; an interest in what motivates them, how they work and how to work cooperatively with them. These children do their best learning in groups or with a partner. They may be described as "too talkative" or too concerned with what others are doing. They are good team players and others may come to this person for help or advice. They are good at sensing how others are feeling. Successful salespeople, politicians, teachers, clinicians, and religious leaders are all likely to be individual with high degrees of interpersonal intelligence.

7) Intrapersonal intelligence:

The ability to "know oneself", to be in touch with one's thoughts, values and feelings. These children are quite intuitive about what they learn and how it relates to themselves. They like being quiet and are often defined as reserved or introverted or thinking or dreaming types. Keeping a personal diary and listing personal goals along with a strong sense of independence from others is a characteristic. Spending time alone is a form of entertainment. These folks think it's more important to do what they think is right rather than what others might think is right.

8) Naturalist intelligence:

The ability to be connected or tuned in with nature, plants, the elements and animals. They love the outdoors and can learn a great deal by experiencing all aspects of nature by being in it rather than learning about it through text books. Geologists, biologists, horticulturists, oceanographers, and weather people have a high degree of this ability.

9) Existentialist:

The ability to learn about the bigger context - the "big picture" of existence. These children ask "Why are we here?" and "What is our role in the world?" They like looking at where humankind stand in relation to the "whole universe". This intelligence is seen in philosophers and perhaps even theologians. (This newly understood ability is still being defined.)

(There are many sites on the web to learn more about Multiple Intelligences as identified by Professor Howard Gardner of Harvard University.)

Keep in mind that adults should not force children to do something for which they have no ability such as playing sports when they are artists. "Ability is the practical measure of life's opportunities. You will never be held responsible for the accomplishment of that which is beyond your abilities." (The Urantia Book, 171:8)

Concerning "special ability" The Urantia Book teaches that celestial help is provided "to the naturally gifted individuals of the mortal races." It teaches that certain spirit helpers conspire to "assist those mortal artists who posses inherent endowments." The guides and teachers often "act as harmonizers of these talents and otherwise to assist and inspire these mortals to seek for ever-perfecting ideals and to attempt their enhanced portrayal for the edification of the realm." (The Urantia Book, 44:8.1) How amazing to ponder that learning more about our children's abilities and our own, and how to bring them from potentials to actuals, not only helps us to develop these gifts, but may actually be furthering the ability of spirit artisans to work effectively with us.

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